Chainsoo (Black Lentil Curry)

Chainsoo is a delicious dal from Uttarakhand. There are several ways to prepare this dish. The most traditional ones also use a local spice called jakhya. Since this spice is not freely available in most regions of the country and abroad, I have avoided its use.
I first started researching Uttarakhandi dishes when a driver from that region was working with me. He was not aware of any of the local dishes. I therefore decided to research and prepare a typical Uttarakhand meal for him. In the process, I became so fascinated with the cuisine that I included many dishes into my regular menu!

1 cup whole black lentils (sabut urad dal, muzhu ulutham parupu)
4-5 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
4 black pepper corns (sabut kali mirch, kuru milagu)
4-5 dried red chillies
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
1/2 tsp coriander powder (dhania powder, kothamalli podi)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (mirchi powder, milagai podi)
3 cups water
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp garam masala
Roast the black lentils on medium flame for about 3-5 minutes, till a pleasant aroma emanates
Set aside to cool
Grind to a coarse powder
Set aside
Heat a wok and roast the garlic cloves till they turn light brown
Add cumin seeds, pepper corns, asafoetida and whole red chillies
Add the powdered black lentils and roast for 1-2 minutes
Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, salt and water
Bring to a boil
Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes till the lentils are soft
Sprinkle garam masala and remove from flame
Serve hot with steamed red/brown rice

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